It may be a well-worn truism that a touring caravan gives you the freedom of the open road. But by taking the short hop across the Channel to France with your caravan in tow opens up countless miles of open road, for you to explore at your will and leisure.
Taking your tourer to France is an exciting adventure and one that need not be at all daunting – provided you have done just a little homework in advance and go fully prepared for driving and towing in a foreign country.
Just how foreign is it?
Listen to the language, taste the food and experience some of the local customs and it is likely to hit you pretty early on that France is, indeed, a foreign country – that is all part of the adventure and excitement, after all.
It might come as something of a relief, therefore, to discover that the rules of the road and the law relating to driving whilst towing a caravan are broadly the same as at home in the UK – though of course, you are driving on the other side of the road. But it is imperative that you stick to any local laws and regulations – on pain of invalidating both your motor insurance and the tourer insurance that safeguards your caravan.
One of the local idiosyncrasies most likely to catch out the British driver in France, for example, is the application of speed restrictions.
Not only may these vary from one stretch of road to another, depending on conditions, but different speed restrictions apply even on French motorways according to the weight of your caravan. If it weighs less than 3.5 tonnes, for example, your speed limit may be 130 kph (81 mph), but this falls to 90 kph (56 mph) if your trailer weighs more than 3.5 tonnes.
Speed restrictions may also vary according to adverse weather conditions, whilst the website Caravan Talk suggests that French police are especially hot on offences related to overloading your caravan.
Drinking and driving
The most sensible advice, of course, is to avoid driving if you have had anything alcoholic to drink.
The AA points out that you must be especially careful if you have held your driving licence for less than three years. Under new restrictions, the blood alcohol level has been reduced from 0.05% to 0.02% for such drivers.
French legislation also requires that you carry a breathalyser in your car at all times – although no penalties are currently imposed if you break that particular law. The device must bear the quality standard mark “NF”, be unused and not past its expiry date. Single-use breathalysers are typically valid for 12 months only, so if you bought one for your last trip to France, its period of validity might have expired by now, and you need to buy a new one.
Apart from compulsorily carrying a breathlyser, you’ll also need to carry a Hi-viz jacket, a red warning triangle, a GB sticker, spare bulbs and headlamp beam deflectors.
Satnav speed camera alerts
If you have a satnav that alerts you to the presence of speed cameras, it is illegal to use it in France, and you must disable the function if you are using one. The penalties are severe – you face a fine of up to €1,500 or may even have your car impounded.
Did your static home survive the Siberian onslaught of the “Beast from the East” at the end of February? Before you breathe too big a sigh of relief, though, remember that March, April and even May also bring their fair share of storms, gales, lashing rain and the risk of flooding.
Given the unpredictability of the British weather, any time of the year is probably a good time to confirm that your static caravan insurance continues to deliver the protection needed for your holiday home.
Suitable insurance – from specialists such as ourselves here at Cover4Caravans – indemnifies you against the financial losses that might result from storm damage to your static caravan, but there are still many, largely commonsense, measures to be taken to mitigate the risks.
Indeed, your insurer has every right to expect you to take such reasonable precautions. If you don’t any loss or damage may be attributed to your contributory negligence, and the value of any insurance settlement reduced accordingly.
- when the winds pick up, damage may be caused by windows and doors rattling against their frames, so make sure that they are securely closed – both when you are away from the caravan and inside it;
- as the winds get up to anything like gale force strength, this also goes for the overhead skylights, which also need to be firmly closed – whether you are home or away;
- for security’s sake, doors and windows need to be securely closed and locked whenever you are away from the static caravan;
- if you have any outside furniture, make sure that it is safely stowed – to prevent it taking off in high winds and causing extensive damage to your own or neighbours’ static homes;
- at the onset of winter, or if storms and severe weather are expected, make an inspection of the area surrounding the pitch on which your static caravan is berthed;
- make a note of any dangerously overhanging or dead tree branches and raise the problem with the park management, preferably in writing, so that appropriate action is taken;
- pre-storm checks also need to be made on the condition and integrity of fencing, verandas, decking, and skirting, to ensure that it is strong enough and sufficiently secure to withstand the onslaught of high winds, rain and even flooding;
- check that gutters and drain pipes are unblocked and securely in place and gas bottles safely stowed;
- if you are going to be away for any length of time, you might want to arrange a visit from time to time to check that everything remains safe, secure and ready for the worst that the elements may throw at your static home.
Storms can wreak havoc with your static home and can spring up at practically any time of the year. Regular checks and a short list of common sense precautions may help to mitigate the risks – putting the mind of your static caravan insurance company at ease and saving many a dent in your own pocket.
Caravanning remains a decidedly British pastime. According to a report by the BBC on the 14th of December 2017, the UK is the second largest market after the United States for the sale of caravans, where more than half a million touring ‘vans are already owned – and sales are tipped to increase in the months ahead.
Britons spend an estimated £1.8 billion on caravan holidays, and the industry is worth some £6 billion a year to the country’s economy, says the National Caravan Council (NCC).
Many of those caravans cost thousands of pounds, and it is little wonder, therefore, that owners typically put a high priority on arranging insurance to protect that investment against theft, loss and damage.
As the Money Saving Expert points out, caravan insurance is not a legal requirement, but if you want more than the basic third-party cover which many motor insurance policies may give you, specialist cover against theft and accidental loss and damage is essential.
What to look out for when buying your caravan insurance
Caravan insurance is a specialist product and not even the most seasoned caravanner is likely to be familiar with every twist and turn, innovation and development of this niche in the wider insurance market.
That is, instead, the job of us here at Cover4Caravans, and by drawing on our expertise and many years of experience, you may take confidence in obtaining the cover that offers optimum protection for your particular caravan, at a competitive price.
It is your caravan, of course, that lies at the heart of any insurance. So, we help you to arrive at a realistic and accurate valuation for the specific make, model and age of the one you own.
It needs to be protected from a range of risks – such as theft, fire, storm damage, impacts, and vandalism – some of which may result in its total loss. The total sum insured, therefore, needs to reflect its current market value and provide sufficient for its replacement in the event of a total loss.
At the same time, though, if you have owned it for a number of years, remember to take into account its inevitable depreciation in value – or you might end up paying more than is necessary in insurance premiums.
Similar thought and care need to be given to the valuation of the contents of your caravan – with gear and equipment that is likely to have grown over the years and currently represents a substantial sum to insure against theft, loss and damage.
Caravan security is improving all the time, and any new model you buy is likely to be considerably better protected than those of old.
But there may always be ways of further improving the security of your caravan – by upgrading locks on windows and doors, for example, or by installing deadlocks – to deter all but the most determined of thieves and intruders. The more you do, the better your chances of gaining valuable discounts on your caravan insurance premiums.
Public liability insurance
An element of caravan insurance frequently overlooked is the risk of some third party – a camper on a neighbouring pitch or a member of the public – from injuring themselves or having their property damaged and holding you responsible as the caravan owner.
Such claims – especially those involving personal injury – may be substantial, so the inclusion of public liability indemnity cover in your caravan insurance is well worth considering.
Can you believe it – Easter is coming around once again already this year.
Mind you, if you are the owner of a touring caravan, you’ve probably been counting the days and have already given the van its annual service, spring clean and made doubly sure that your touring caravan insurance continues to provide precisely the cover you need and remains fully up to date.
All that might leave you to do is dream up some of the best early spring trips in your caravan that a British Easter has to offer. Here are just seven ideas:
The New Forest
- be among the first to see New Forest glades carpeted in their annual glory of shimmering bluebells;
- they are generally in bloom throughout April and May – so Easter Sunday on the 2nd of April might give you are an early preview;
- the Forestry Commission’s Camping in the Forest has ten sites dotted around the New Forest, so there is certain to be one near your favourite spot;
- try Aldridge Hill for its idyllic location and back to basics simplicity (there is no toilet block, shop or onsite electricity) or revel in all the comforts of the gold standard Holmsley Caravan and Camping site on the southern edge of the National Park;
- the West Country is a haven for touring caravans at any time of the year, but this Easter you might want an exceptionally peaceful, tranquil, yet luxuriously appointed site at Hedley Wood Holiday Park near Bude and the sandy beaches of Widemouth;
- you’ll be spoilt not only by the natural beauty of the area but the onsite luxury of “ensuite” touring pitches that come with their own private shower and toilet facilities;
- an historic city, a stunning coastline and gentle countryside – the Camping and Caravan Club’s site at Canterbury has it all;
- well within walking distance – or an even shorter bus ride – the picturesque city of Canterbury has history aplenty, whilst the surrounding countryside shows off some of its most colourful and attractive sights in the first flush of spring;
- head to nearby Whitstable as your base for some bracing coastal walks;
- the extensive inland waterways of the Norfolk Broads come to life in the spring – and what better and more central a site from which to start exploring than the Norfolk Broads’ Caravan Club site near the villages of, Ludham, Potter Heigham and Horning, not far from Great Yarmouth;
- there are 111 pitches for touring caravans and, as you’d expect from a site of this size, plenty of amenities and facilities for the whole family;
- if you are after a quiet and relaxing Easter holiday, undisturbed by the boisterous play of children, the adults-only Tyddyn Du Touring Park on the north coast of Wales provides the perfectly peaceful setting;
- you might want to do little more than just admire the stunning sea views across the water to Anglesey and the Great Orme at Llandudno;
The Lake District
- want to stumble across your very own “sea of golden daffodils”? Then, it’s towards Wordsworth’s Lake District, of course, that you’ll be heading this Easter;
- the wooded glades of Skelwith Fold Touring Caravan Site on the edge of Ambleside could be the ideal place to savour the taste of Easter’s spring sunshine in the stunning setting of the English lakes;
- the sunshine might come somewhat later north of border, but that makes Scotland no less an exciting destination for more adventurous trips in your caravan this Easter;
- Resipole Farm in the Western Highlands, for example, has been voted one of the top campsites in Scotland for active-minded lovers of the great outdoors by Cool Camping Britain.
Near to home or a pleasant drive away, Eastertime might offer the perfect opening to the coming season of caravanning.
A frequent concern of owners of static caravans relates to what they should do about flooding risk.
This is a very wide and complicated subject. Here we can only touch on a few of the most general aspects of this risk and some of the practicalities.
Assessing the risk
Nobody can tell you, unconditionally, whether or not your caravan and its site are going to be subject to flooding – the effects of which can obviously be severe.
It is true that some sites are regarded as high risk. Typically they will be in the vicinity of a stream or river, close to a coastal area or perhaps nearby to a natural lake.
Insurance providers will take the history of the site into account when considering an appropriate premium. In some exceptionally high-risk areas or those with a documented history of major flooding events, it may prove difficult, though not impossible, to find cost-effective static caravan insurance flood risk protection.
However, it is equally the case that sometimes previously untouched sites regarded as being at relatively low risk, have also been flooded in highly unusual weather situations.
Whether your static caravan insurance provider regards the site as high risk or not, you should always be prepared for the possibility and consider drafting a plan to cope, should the worst happen.
Whether your site is low or high risk, it might be prudent to consider some of the following:
- try to select caravans that are located on higher ground within the site rather than lower;
- construct carefully, perhaps with advice, your flood plan. That essentially will tell you exactly what you have to do should you be, however unexpectedly, hit by flooding;
- you should be absolutely clear where your gas, water and electrical master switches are. Ensure these are all switched off in the event of flooding. While a site owner should also have such a plan, don’t rely on what they may do in these areas but take your own steps to keep yourself safe;
- check that you have adequate emergency lighting and perhaps portable heating of types that cannot be put at risk by a flood;
- keep a supply of good waterproof clothes and boots to hand. Remember, clothing that can cope with heavy rainfall is not the same as that required to protect you if you are wading through perhaps knee-deep water;
- store some emergency high energy foodstuffs with a long shelf life in waterproof containers.
Specifics for high flood risk areas
In such situations and in addition to the above basics:
- check that the site owners are aware of the government’s guidelines for mitigating flooding risks in high-risk areas;
- be certain that you know where the emergency assembly and evacuation points are for your site. Do not leave trying to find this out until a crisis has struck;
- fit flotation devices on the underside of your static, raise it by approximately 0.5 metres above the ground on axle stands and above all, make sure it is firmly anchored into position;
- it would also be sensible to check that you fully understand your static caravan insurance position in terms of the provider’s requirements relating to maintaining your cover in place and any specific conditions that might apply.